Entrance hall of the ICMS Workshop

Engaging with Engagement (Generic Skills for PG students)

Feb 17, 2011 - Feb 18, 2011

ICMS, 15 South College Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AA


Name Institution
Collins, Julia University of Edinburgh

Communicating our research is something that we have to do every day, whether it’s explaining it to other mathematicians, chatting to our families, or impressing the boss of that new job we want.  Mathematics is a particularly difficult subject to talk about, but that makes it all the more important to work hard to get across the amazing nature of what we do.

In this conference we’ll first hear some stories from people whose job it is to communicate maths, and then everyone will be given the chance to do some engagement of their own.  Participants will be able to choose two workshops from the following:

  • Giving a talk
  • Writing an article
  • Making a video
  • Maths busking

Our expert mentors will help the groups producing their resource, and on the second day of the conference there will be a showcase of all these creations.  Feedback will be given, and finally prizes will be awarded for the most outstanding pieces of work.

Funding for this conference is provided by the Roberts Fund for transferable skills and by the Generic Skills programme.

The workshops
Giving a talk
It’s traditional, but it’s effective!  One of the most versatile methods of engaging is simply to talk about it, whether that’s in a school, in a seminar or at a conference.  There are lots of tips which can help you give better and more exciting talks, and nobody knows them better than Rob Eastaway.  Rob runs a maths theatre show called ‘Maths Inspiration’, where speakers get to engage with hundreds of school pupils every time.  He’ll help to bring out the best in your talks and get your audience hanging on your every word.  The best speakers will get the chance to give a performance before the general public.

Writing an article
There are more opportunities to write about mathematics than there have ever been!  Blogs, magazines, personal websites, newspapers, books… It’s one of the easiest ways to get into communicating your research, but it’s harder to do it well enough to be able to stand out from the crowd.  To mentor you into writing a great piece, we have the expertise from the editors of EUSci, the Edinburgh University Science magazine, together with a guest mentor yet to be confirmed.  The best entries will be published in the next EUSci magazine and posted on the Edinburgh maths department website.

Making a video

A video is a great way to communicate your research, because the audience not only gets to learn about your work but they can see your personality shining through as well.  Patronising as it may sound, getting across the idea that mathematicians are ‘normal’ ‘real’ people is an important one in today’s world!  Your mentors will be a team from the Vidiowiki project: http://www.vidiowiki.com/.  They’ll teach you to plan and shoot a 3-minute film about your research, and will include the best videos on their international website.

Maths busking
Maths busking (http://www.mathsbusking.com/) involves performing tricks on the high street that look like magic but are actually all about maths.  It’s a great way to engage with an audience who would otherwise not think to come to a maths talk, visit a museum or go to a science festival.  Matt Parker, stand-up mathematician and one of the founding members of the busking idea, will be here as your mentor to help you come up with new and exciting tricks to perform.  There will be a chance for enthusiastic buskers to then do some real busking at the Edinburgh International Science Festival in April. 


Public lecture with Rob Eastaway
There will be a free public lecture suitable for an audience of 16 years and older. This will be held in the Newhaven Lecture Theatre, ICMS, 15 South College Street on Thursday 17 February from 18.00-19.00, followed by tea and coffees. 

Ten Ways to Win a Maths Bet in the Pub
What's the point of maths? To help you to win bets in the pub of course. The best bets are ones where your opponent thinks the odds are in his favour. Bestselling maths author and broadcaster RobEastaway demonstrates his favourite examples, ranging from the newspaper bet to a game of 'special' poker, with a stunning Derren-Brown-style prediction along the way. And to add a bit of spice, Rob will be giving the audience a chance to win some money off him too. This talk is suitable for anyone who has ever been (or fancied going) to a pub. With any luck, you won't have to pay for a drink for a while.  


Participation is primarily for PhD students at the following Universities: Heriot-Watt University, University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews, University of Strathclyde and University of Stirling. Places are limited; if there are places available we will also consider: MSc students and Postdocs from the above Universities,and MSc, PhD and Posdocs from other Universities (participants from other Universities will be charged to cover catering costs; price on request).

To register your interest in participating, please complete this form.

The workshops will be held at ICMS, 15 South College Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AA. 

The workshops are free of charge for participants from the above named universities. The cost of travel should be covered by the home universities as per guidelines for Generic Skills programme events. 

Other participants will be charged.

The workshop will span one and a half days: it will start after lunch on Thursday 17 February and will continue until mid-afternoon on Friday 18 February.

Public lecture
There will be a public lecture with Rob Eastaway on Thursday night. Tickets are available here (free). Students attending the conference will not need to register for tickets for the public lecture but if they want friends and family to join for the lecture they should be directed to the ticketing website above. 



Thursday 17 February

13.30 - 14.00

Registration and coffee

14.00 - 14.10

Opening remarks

14.15 - 14.45

Matt Parker
Why engage? (provisional title)

14.45 - 15.15

Keith Ball
The importance of engaging in academia (provisional title)

15.15 - 15.35

Break. Tea and coffee served in the Chapterhouse.

15.35 - 17.20

Workshop 1

18.00 - 19.45

Public lecture by Rob Eastaway, followed by tea and coffee

20.00 onwards

Dinner at Spoon


Friday 18 February

09.30 - 09.40

Welcome Back

09.45 - 10.15

Opportunities for Engagement
Short talks about different aspects of engagement

10.15 - 10.30

Break. Tea and coffee served in the Chapterhouse.

10.30 - 12.15

Workshop 2

12.15 - 13.15

Lunch, organisers set up showcase

13.15 - 15.15

Feedback, judges' comments

15.15 - 15.45

Prizes given, end of conference



Name Institution
Adams-Florou, Spiros University of Edinburgh
Afara, Bassima Heriot-Watt University
Alshomrani, Ali Heriot-Watt University
Bah, Bubacarr University of Edinburgh
Collins, Julia University of Edinburgh
Dagbovie, Ayawoa Heriot-Watt University
Djeundje Biatat, Viani Aime Heriot-Watt University
Docherty, Pamela University of Edinburgh
Eradat Oskoui, Solmaz University of St Andrews
Gamado, Kokouvi Mawuli BioSS and Heriot-Watt University
Grady, Keith University of St Andrews
Karambal, Issa Heriot-Watt University
Liu, Wei University of Strathclyde
Meyer, Karen University of St Andrews
Palmer, Sam Heriot-Watt University
Pan, Jiafeng University of Strathclyde
Patidar, Sandhya Heriot-Watt University
Porter, Ros Univeristy of Stirling
Powell, Mark University of Edinburgh
Qiang, Feng University of Edinburgh
Reynolds, Paul University of Edinburgh
Smedley-Williams, Kim Heriot-Watt University
Takac, Martin University of Edinburgh